Get the Lead Out for a Greener Ride

Four small pieces of lead may not seem like a big deal. Each wheel on your car likely has a little bar of lead on its rim, in the form of a wheel weight. But picture the magnitude of vehicles on U.S. roads and you see quickly how all that lead adds up to a significant problem.

For decades, wheel weights have largely consisted of chunks of lead clamped to the wheel rim. Why lead? Because it is cheap and heavy, allowing the use of relatively small weights to balance wheels. However, the toxic metal can cause brain damage and other nervous-system disorders in people.

The ugly truth is that each year an estimated 50,000 tons of lead are used globally to manufacture wheel weights. Approximately 1.6 million tons of those weights fall from vehicles during normal driving in the U.S. alone, many of them washing into storm sewers or being gathered during street cleaning and ending up in municipal landfills. (Source: Lead Free Wheels, a project of the Ecology Center)

Fortunately, the tide is finally turning in the U.S. Banned by the European Union in 2005, lead weights are being phased out in Japan and South Korea, and now the trend is sweeping across the U.S.

Several states are currently affected, including California, Washington, Maine, Vermont and Iowa, while many other municipalities and organizations are enacting voluntary restrictions on lead use. The EPA is becoming actively involved in removal of lead from the environment so we can expect further formal restrictions.

A Greener Alternative 

3M has been a leader in creating sustainable alternatives for many pollutants, and the company now offers lead-free wheel weights, which have less impact on the environment. The weights are corrosion resistant so they won’t leave rust and stains on your wheel as can metal weights.

The 3M material is custom cut to the exact weight needed, so your wheels are precision balanced, which can help improve gas mileage and provide a smoother ride.

Next time you bring your vehicle in for wheel balancing, ask for the latest innovation from 3M and keep your wheels balanced the lead-free way.

For more information, click on, or call 800-328-1684.

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